PINEHURST, N.C. -- Before the start of yesterday's final round in the 105th U.S. Open, Jason Gore had never been formally introduced to Retief Goosen. That happens when you're ranked 818th in the world and playing the Nationwide Tour, and the other guy is ranked fifth and has won the U.S. Open twice in the past four years.
By the end of the round, Goosen and Gore were forever part of what might be the highest score ever recorded by the final pairing in an Open. Things got so bad for them that the normally silent Goosen was cracking jokes. That happens when one player shoots 81 and the other 84 -- a combined 25-over par.
"He asked me if I knew the game cricket 'cause when you score runs they're called overs," Gore said. "That was the only thing we were resembling."
Goosen, 36, certainly didn't look like a player who had taken a three-stroke lead into the final round and was looking to join five others who had won the Open at least three times. He certainly didn't look like he did last year at Shinnecock Hills, when he shot 70 as others fell apart.
"It was just one of those days," Goosen said. "I couldn't make a putt to save my life, and that was pretty much the end of the story."
Losing a tense battle, as Phil Mickelson did last year on Long Island, might have been difficult for Goosen.
Instead, Goosen tried to put things into perspective.
"This is nothing serious," he said. "Nobody has died, I think, or anything. I had a great Father's Day this morning with the kids, and the family is a lot more important than playing anyone out there today, but it was disappointing. I would have obviously loved to have been up there giving myself half a chance going down the strip, but next time."
Gore, too, had to look at what he accomplished the first three rounds rather than how he shot the highest score -- by three strokes -- yesterday. Playing in only his second Open, and making the cut for the first time, Gore became something of a mini-celebrity in the golf world for a day or two.
"It was awesome. It was incredible," said Gore, who wound up with a decent check ($20,275) despite losing plenty of money by playing the last 11 holes in 12-over. "Just the whole deal was overwhelming, and I can't wait to try it again. A little humility is good for you."
Olin Browne's 23rd-place finish was his best performance in an Open since finishing tied for fifth at Congressional in 1997.
"This game teaches you to embrace failure," said Browne, 46. "You spend an awful lot of time messing up. For three days I kept control of myself. And I played better today than I did yesterday and I ended up shooting 80. I'm not disappointed with my performance. I'm looking forward to the rest of the year."
Despite the high scores, yesterday's average round (74.47) was a shade less than the opening round. Unlike last year, when players complained about how unfair Shinnecock Hills was after several greens -- particularly the par-3 seventh --were deemed unplayable, there were few complaints about the No. 2 course.
"I think the green speed never got out of control," said Davis Love III, who used a 1-under 69 to leapfrog up the leader board to a tie for sixth at 6-over 286.
It marked the first time since 1979 that the winning score was not below par.